Gen isolation: Record low 67% of high school seniors did not see friends ‘almost every day’ last year
Fewer teens are meeting up with friends to go to the mall, movies or just hang out than ever before, experts say.
A leading US survey found that two-thirds of high school seniors were no longer meeting up with their friends almost every day last year, reports say. For comparison, in 2010 just over half were not seeing friends almost daily.
Experts blamed the shift on the rise of social media, with youngsters now spending more time glued to screens and talking electronically than meeting up in real life.
They warned this could be linked to the surge in mental health problems among children — with 60 percent of teen girls feeling persistently sad now compared to 36 percent in 2011 — and a rise in feelings of loneliness among youngsters.
Teenagers are now spending less time meeting up with friends than ever before. It has been replaced by more time on social media (stock image)
The portion of young women experiencing persistent depression is at its highest level in about 10 years
The figures from Monitoring the Future — a leading survey involving about 50,000 kids and run by the University of Michigan — were reported by DC-based publication The Hill.
The survey shows that when it first began in the 1970s, about half of high-school seniors — aged 17 to 18 — met up with their friends almost daily.
But over the following decades, this proportion has gradually shrunk down to less than a third today.
The steepest decline was recorded around 2010, just as smartphones and social media were coming onto the scene.
At about this time, there was also a surge in mental health problems and feelings of loneliness among youngsters.
Dr Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, told the publication: ‘Teens are spending a lot more time communicating with each other electronically and a lot less time hanging out with each other face-to-face.
‘Going to the mall has gone down. Driving in the car for fun has gone down. Going to the movies has gone down.
‘We’re talking about kids who are spending five, six, seven hours a day on social media.’
Teenagers may be spending more time on social media in order to feel more connected with their peers and to avoid FOMO, or fear of missing out.
But all this regular use appears to be coming at the expense of meeting up with someone in real life.
Psychologists have found that meeting up with friends in real life helps to foster feelings of friendship and build trust and rapport with another person.
It can also help to reduce feelings of loneliness while boosting someone’s social skills and confidence.
The evidence is less clear for the benefits of social media use, however, with studies suggesting youngsters who are online regularly are more likely to feel lonely.
Researchers suggest this may be because they are constantly viewing the interactions of others online, leading them to feel left out.
But they can’t rule out that the rise could also be because people who feel lonely are more likely to spend longer on social media.